The phasing out of the metals program will begin in Fall 1995, beginning with the actual metalsmithing studio, Room 119, in the Art building. The transformation of the metals studio into use for foundations classes will be completed by August. The formal closure of the metalsmithing/jewelry making program and the major will take place by Fall 1996, after the five remaining metals undergraduates earn their degrees.
The department has been a part of the University since the 1960s, graduating a total of 80 students with bachelors of fine arts degrees and 15 students with masters degrees in metalsmithing/jewelry making. The actual studio in the Art Building opened in August 1993. Proposals to auction or dispose of the newly-purchased materials now being used by the metals program are presently being discussed by the University.
According to a Feb. 21 memorandum addressed to the faculty in the Department of Art from Andrew Polk, their interim department head, study space for metalsmithing for the "4-5 seniors who wish to continue their education in this medium" will be offered "in one of the smaller satellite rooms in the current space."
This means that for the five metals majors currently in the department, two small adjacent rooms will be offered for metalsmithing under the supervision of one or two adjunct professors.
The plan to eliminate the metalsmithing major will stunt student production for those remaining in the program.
Metals studio monitor and teaching assistant Liza Salomon, who is not a metalsmithing/jewelry major, knows that the small rooms will limit student production and hinder their art production.
"It will work, but it's kind of cruel to put five people in these rooms to graduate. Most of the people who will graduate will need to finish their upper division work in the adjacent rooms," says Salomon of the proposal to dissolve program.
"To put all of the different facets of metalsmithing into one room will make it frustrating and unpleasant for those five people. For example, there will only be room for one torch and the studio now has four torches. Soldering will be limited in the fact that one or two people will be able to do that at one time," Salomon said.
Ann Childs, a non-degree seeking graduate student, also foresees impairment with the use of only the small satellite rooms. Childs has been working with metals since 1976 and has been taking classes in the University's metals program since her transfer to the UA from Pima Community College in 1990.
"Independent study will allow those metals majors to fulfill their requirements to graduate UA with a metalsmithing degree. But, interaction between student and teacher, as well as between peers, will be disadvantages of the independent study as opposed to interactive class education," said Childs.
Janet Barwell, a student metalsmithing lab monitor, is a co-distributor of a petition that will be formally presented to Andrew Polk this week. Eighty-nine students' signatures have been attached to the petition in an effort to change the decision to dissolve the metalsmithing/jewelry making program.
Philip Whately, a non-degree seeking graduate student, feels that "the rug is being pulled from under our feet if they discontinue the program." Whately helped circulate the petition with Barwell and encouraged letter writing among students. "We need all the help we can get or else we'll be yesterday's news," says Whately. He says he doesn't understand why metalsmithing and jewelry classes are in such high demand, and yet are being axed.
UA alumna and faculty member of the Pima Community College metalworking program Betty Harris agrees with Whately. "The people of Tucson and the people of Arizona deserve to have a running metals program at the UA. I think it's criminal and the Art Department might like to use the program as the sacrificial lamb," adds metalsmithing adjunct Kristin Beeler, who received her M.F.A. in metalsmithing/jewelry making from the UA.
"Mike (Croft) and the program are not the same entity," adds Whately. "It doesn't necessarily mean that Mike is the program and the program is Mike. They could hire someone else."
The memo released by Polk also stated an internal faculty shift as the reason for the phase out inside the department. "It is with a mixture of emotions that I inform you of the momentous change currently underway. In my view, the mid
change represents a positive new direction, but it is nevertheless one which carries a cost," Polk's memo stated.
As the present head of UA's metalsmithing/jewelry program, Michael Croft will assume the post of coordinator of all foundation courses in the fall of 1996, after his sabbatical leave. Barbara Penn, current coordinator of 2-D Foundations, will become part of the Painting and Drawing faculty for the Fall 1995 semester. The memo further states that, "In the meantime, the salary savings from his (Croft's) position will be used to hire one or more adjuncts to serve in this capacity during the interim next year."
Valerie Hudson, studio art senior, expressed her concerns over the faculty's disregard for students' opinions concerning the phase-out, "I want to find out what their decision is based on. I'd like to see a list of reasons. Are they making this decision from the top of their heads and on opinion? Have they researched it and weighed the pros and cons? What has been told to us is that it would be easier to just close the department down, but if your decision is based on what is easier, it's wimping out," Hudson said.
Croft, who has been with the UA metals program for 22 years, explained why he has decided to leave the program. He said that metalsmithing "the medium of my choice and the discontinuation comes with mixed emotions. I do think that it comes down to a matter of the greatest good to the greatest number of students. If we can convert the facility and use the resources to support the greater means, then that seems like the reasonable way to go."
Croft's administrative expertise and experience in foundations are two of the reasons that his position will be switched to the foundations coordinator, Polk said. The internal shift of faculty was initially discussed between Croft and Polk and then was proposed to Fine Arts Dean Maurice Sevigny. It was Croft's initial decision to approach Polk that circulated talks of shutting down the program, thus the program shift was implemented at the base level and not handed down by administrators higher-up, Polk said.
"I am in support (of the proposal) for two reasons. One, it's the department initiative for dealing with new technology and quality undergraduate education. Second, I always support the ongoing development and redevelopment of the faculty to create incentives for change," said Sevigny.
The "departmental reorganization," according to Croft, was a "decision as to whether or not the department can make better use of the resources and the facilities to a greater number of students (foundations students versus metals students)." He expressed the belief that this is not another administrative axing comparable to what the Department of Journalism is going through.
But why hasn't Croft's position been filled? according to Polk, there are 41 seats, or "lines," in the Department of Art. The creation of a new line would need the consent of the Dean and the Provost. It didn't seem that a new line had a chance of being granted because Polk thought that "it was not a realistic request .... We are working with our current set of resources: faculty lines, facilities and budgets. We have decided to do some internal shifting and there are no position and faculty vacancies. We would like to have additional faculty and it didn't seem like a reasonable expectation that that would be forthcoming."
Art Department faculty have cited lack of funding as a secondary reason for the phase out of the metalsmithing major. Tight budgetary constraints have been an issue in the metals closure controversy, however much overshadowed by faculty desires for the internal shift.
With the phase-out of the metalsmithing/jewelry making program, students at the University of Arizona have again been on the receiving end of discontinued programs and hush-hush politics. Under assault again are the humanities, which makes one wonder if the UA is a microcosm of a rising national sentiment against the arts.
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